Building Sector Overview

Our research in Reinventing Fire shows how to save, very profitably, at least 38 percent, and with our integrative design techniques 58-72 percent, of U.S. buildings’ projected 2050 primary energy use, vs. the 10% officially forecast. In 2011-12, RMI’s Buildings practice partnered with large property owners to make their dominant chunk of this potential $1.4-trillion-net bonanza a reality.

Our Commercial Buildings Work

Actual data on the 2010 Empire State Building retrofit whose design we’d co-led in 2008 showed the building is performing even better than we’d predicted. ESB continues to be a uniquely iconic, transparently analyzed model for retrofitting a historic building to achieve deep energy savings—in this case, two-fifths, with a three-year payback.

Construction also started this year on another distinguished building project we are proud to be part of: The Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Our buildings practice provided energy and sustainability consultation on the design.

To reach beyond the influence of our individual projects, we launched the Portfolio Challenge, inviting owners of large fleets of buildings to work with RMI to assess retrofit opportunities across their entire portfolio. Our first partner is AT&T, which operates more than 65,000 properties in over 60 countries.

When the General Services Administration (GSA), the nation’s largest commercial landlord, initiated the GSA Net Zero Renovation Challenge, RMI hosted the kickoff and helped organize the competition in which all the Energy Service Companies who work on GSA buildings are invited to submit net-zero designs (using no net energy or even selling back surplus renewable energy). RMI is now starting work on a GSA building, the first of many, with Honeywell.

RMI’s buildings practice recently launched an Education & Training program to formalize the education work we have been doing for many years. Our staff also continued to train building energy modelers in energy analysis for deep retrofits. In FY2011-12 , we held two major workshops at RMI, one for energy service companies and one for building owners. In collaboration with our partners from the Building Owners & Managers Association, we published “Working Together for Sustainability, The RMI-BOMA Guide for Landlords & Tenants.”

In support of our training efforts, in June we redesigned our online RetroFit Depot, making it easier to use and explore. The site incorporates news, blog, and Twitter feeds and two new guides downloaded by nearly 500 users—chiefly sustainability consultants, architects, and owner-occupants.

To explore the blogs our experts published this year, browse the buildings-related stories and videos on this page.

Also see information and stories from our Superefficient Housing Initiative